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Headteachers from across South Wales have told how they are already putting into practice what they learned on a study visit to Canada earlier this year.

School leaders from the EAS, ERW and CSC regions reflected on their summer trip to Ontario at a special event hosted by Yr Athrofa.

A study visit funded by the British Council included meetings with senior officials from the Ontario Ministry of Education, the Ontario College of Teachers and the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO).

These were supplemented by visits to local elementary, middle and high schools, where delegates were given the opportunity to share ideas with principals, teachers and pupils.

The ‘Tales from Toronto’ symposium, held at Yr Athrofa’s new Cardiff base in Tramshed Tech, featured contributions from university staff, Welsh Government officials and each of the five headteachers who travelled to the city in June.

Among them was Russell Dwyer, headteacher of St Thomas Community Primary School, in Swansea, who described the visit as “the most valuable experience I’ve had in my whole career”.

He added: “There’s a strong sense of public confidence in education in Ontario… and there was a real sense that everyone was in it together.

“We need to focus on that more in Wales. We are really architects of education in Wales at the moment and we must really take onboard that responsibility that’s been given to us.”

Tegwen Ellis, headteacher of Ysgol Cynwyd Sant, in Bridgend, said public confidence in state education allowed schools in Ontario the freedom to take more risks.

For Rhian Ellis, headteacher of Ysgol Gyfun Cymer Rhonnda, in Rhondda Cynon Taf, the Ontarian emphasis on equity was a particular draw.

“It was a privilege to go to Toronto and see so many things that made a deep impression on me,” she said.

The event also saw the launch of Yr Athrofa’s Tales from Toronto report comparing education in Wales and Canada.

The report outlines a number of key findings and includes written submissions from all of the headteachers present on the trip.

It concludes with a list of recommendations for Wales and the Welsh Government, which includes making better use of data; forging stronger working relationships between stakeholders; and developing a consistent narrative and shared language of education reform.

Steve Davies, Director of Education in the Welsh Government, responded to the report’s recommendations during his presentation at Tramshed Tech.

“For me, the challenge comes back to public confidence,” he said. “We all need to stand up and identify what our role could and should be in moving forward.”

Professor Peter Rabbett, Deputy Dean of Yr Athrofa and leader of the delegation, said: “Our Tales from Toronto symposium provided delegates with a fascinating insight into one of the world’s leading education systems.

“Each of our headteachers had a different story to tell, albeit there were a number of recurring themes – not least the shared responsibility everybody engaged in Ontarian education has for delivering the highest possible standards.

“We are very grateful for the contributions made by our colleagues in schools and the Welsh Government – and it was wonderful to see lessons learned in Ontario already impacting on teaching and learning in Wales.”

Copies of Tales from Toronto: Comparing Education in Wales and Canada are available here.

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